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Time Is Up For Once-great Britain

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Time is up for once-great Britain

Even in the decades after it lost its empire, Britain strode the world like a pocket superpower. Its economic strength and cultural heft, its nuclear-backed military might, its extraordinary relationship with America — all these things helped this small island nation to punch well above its weight class. Now all that is changing as the bills become due on Britain’s role in last year’s financial meltdown, the rescue of the banks and the ensuing recession. Suddenly the country is having to rethink its role in the world — perhaps as Little Britain, certainly as a lesser Britain.

This is a watershed moment for the UK. The country’s public debt is soaring, possibly doubling to a record 100 per cent of GDP over the next five years, according to the International Monetary Fund. The National Institute of Economic and Social Research forecasts that it will take six years for per capita income to reach early 2008 levels again.

The effects will cascade across government. Budgets will be slashed at the Ministry of Defence and the Foreign Office, affecting Britain’s ability to project power, hard and soft. And there’s little that can be done to reverse the trend, either by Gordon Brown or by David Cameron. As William Hague, the Shadow Foreign Secretary, said in a recent speech: “It will become more difficult over time for Britain to exert on world affairs the influence which we are used to.â€

History has been closing in on Britain for some time. The rise of China and India always meant that Britain would have a smaller seat at the increasingly crowded top table of nations. It also meant that the US would recalibrate the so-called special relationship as it sought new partners and alliances, inevitably shrinking the disproportionate role Britain has long played in world affairs.

Tony Blair made a final stab at greatness with what amounted to a 51st-state strategy: by locking Britain into America’s wars — on terror, in Afghanistan, and in Iraq — London achieved an importance it hadn’t had since Churchill. But whatever advantage Britain gained in the short term was wiped out by the political damage Mr Blair’s strategy caused at home. Ordinary Britons and even members of the Establishment grew critical of what they saw as London’s subservient relationship with Washington. Mr Blair’s authority was diminished, his political agenda at home suffered and it became clear that Britain’s geopolitical default setting would no longer be to follow America’s lead automatically. Mr Blair may merely have postponed the inevitable: a lesser Britain is a consequence of world events.

The global recession has hit virtually every country, but Britain more than most. The great engine room of British prosperity, the financial sector, now feels like an anchor. The IMF believes that Britain’s slump will be deeper and longer than that of any other advanced economy. The number of Britons claiming unemployment benefits has jumped from 1.3 million (4.6 per cent of the workforce) in 1999 to more than two million and is on track to top three million.

The OECD says Britain’s recovery may begin this year, but will lag behind those of other rich countries. At the moment, Britain is arguably saddled with the worst public finances of any leading nation, thanks to voracious spending in recent years and to borrowing that is growing faster than in other developed nations. Britain is so heavily indebted that one political commentator dubbed it Iceland-on-Thames, suggesting that Britain could follow that nation into bankruptcy.

What makes the British case stand out even more is that it is the only country of its size in recent history that has sought such a disproportionately large role on the world stage. During the Cold War, Margaret Thatcher saw herself as second only to Ronald Reagan as a leader who helped to bring down the Soviet Union. During Mr Blair’s decade in office, Britain fought three wars — in Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq — in which its military participation was right behind that of the US. Now that’s changing.

The UK still maintains one of the largest defence budgets in the world, but probably not for much longer. As the number of British deaths in Afghanistan has risen dramatically, both Labour and the Conservatives have felt obliged to say they would not reduce defence spending, so as not to put troops at greater risk. But in the longer term experts say big cuts are inevitable.

A Royal United Services Institute paper estimates that the MoD budget will be cut by 11 per cent in real terms over the next six years. Other estimates are much higher. Paddy Ashdown, a former Royal Marine, has said the annual £35 billion MoD budget might have to be cut by almost a quarter, which would put Britain more in line with traditionally lower-spending continental powers. Britain’s role in the world will shrink with its budget.

The future of Britain’s nuclear force, the ultimate symbol of a great power, is also uncertain. Britain’s submarine-based Trident missile system is due to be replaced over the next decade at a cost of some £20 billion. But according to a recent poll 54 per cent of the British people say that Britain should give up its nuclear deterrent altogether. That’s unlikely, but it may force the next government to find a cheap way to extend Trident’s lifespan. Traditionally, being a nuclear power was one way of securing permanent membership of the UN Security Council, and any downgrading of Britain’s deterrent could strengthen the demands of big emerging powers that they should have more seats on the council, possibly at the UK’s expense.

The glory days of the City of London are now grinding to a halt, too. London stole the march on Wall Street by seizing the highest growth areas, such as hedge funds, exotic derivatives and the like. Unluckily for London, these areas were also the hardest hit by the financial crisis. But now London, like New York, awaits a slew of new national, regional and global regulation that appears likely to diminish its role in the world for years to come. The EU has already endorsed the creation of a systemic risk board with oversight powers that will include the City. Britain has sidestepped such intervention in the past, but this time is different. Germany and France appear intent on restraining the excesses of Anglo-Saxon capitalism and may seek to engineer reforms that steer a greater share of global capital flows into more cautious continental hands.

London, as the glitzier icon of laissez faire, will pay a steeper price than Wall Street in the financial new world order. Ever since the Big Bang of the 1980s, London has regulated the banking industry with a light touch. If European regulations are harmonised to include London and if London’s light touch gets a little heavier, the City could suddenly become “more antagonistic to the institutions that are being regulatedâ€, as Andrew Hilton, of the Centre for the Study of Financial Innovation, puts it. In that event, financial centres such as Singapore and Hong Kong could draw business away from the City.

Britain’s bout of reflection on its last gasps of empire comes at a natural point in its history. The Great Recession came as a surprise and has accelerated the trend, but the rise of China, India and Brazil, and the changing ties to a declining America, have been visible for many years. As America turns to building new ties with the advancing powers of Asia and Latin America, Britain can only feel less special. The nation is in the totally predictable grip of the ennui and grumpiness that accompany the end of a political era.

Eleven years ago, the year after Mr Blair swept to victory, he spoke in Dublin of a Britain that was “emerging from its post-empire malaiseâ€. Phrases such as “new Labour†and “new dawn†and “new Britain†were not yet curdling on the tongue. Today, Mr Blair is two years out of office and Mr Brown suffers from a grey, been-there-too-long aura. Long gone is the cultural ferment of Cool Britannia that made London the capital of cool in the early Blair years.

Pity the prime minister who takes over from Mr Brown. A Conservative victory at the next election would have little of the game-changing feeling that accompanied Mr Blair’s triumph 12 years ago. Then, Britain bought into Mr Blair’s mantra because it was real enough: the economy had already begun a period of unprecedented growth, immigration was enriching the country, an entrepreneurial fervour crackled across even the old industrial heartland. Today that has evaporated. The great test of the next prime minister will be not only to redefine Britain’s place among great nations but also to renew the kind of spirit that has ruled Britannia in the past.

Well put. Ouch.

Whom, outside of the established, privileged few, can hope to have any real future here?

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If I were a conspiricy theorist I would say, that the debt bubble is a global stratagy to control the European working and middle classes. The productivity is being transfered to third world cheap labour and the elite will flourish wherever they reside, because the wealth will still filter to them. Why would the elite worry what happens to us. All those so called loyal family firms that have moved thier plants overseas leaving thier past loyal workers scrating thier backsides on the British dole overloading public funds.

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This is just reality biting.

We have been spending far too much on 'defence' (which in actuality is 'attack') since WWII.

The UK is not special, it's just a medium-sized northern European country and we need to behave as such.

Reduce defence spending, and send a whole load of spivs and speculators over to Asia (the entire financial sector is only responsible for around 15% of UK GDP). Sounds good to me!

Over time we will fill the gap in the economy, maybe even with real businesses exporting products and services.

As long as you leave me with access to the Highlands of Scotland and Italy, you can have the rest.

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Guest UK Debt Slave
If I were a conspiricy theorist I would say, that the debt bubble is a global stratagy to control the European working and middle classes. The productivity is being transfered to third world cheap labour and the elite will flourish wherever they reside, because the wealth will still filter to them. Why would the elite worry what happens to us. All those so called loyal family firms that have moved thier plants overseas leaving thier past loyal workers scrating thier backsides on the British dole overloading public funds.

I would describe it as conspiracy fact myself

The middle class is being systematically wiped out across the developed world and it's no accident. It has been very well planned

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Britain has never been "great" as in superb or wonderful. Great Britain is from the Norman French Greater Brittany after Duke Billy conquered the unruly Germans that lived a bit north of the thin strip of sea bordering Normandy in 1066.

As a result England became "under the Norman yoke". The most insulting part of which was the installation of Richard Coeur de Leon as king - a man that spoke no English.

The Norman aristocracy continues to this day to dominate the English upper classes. It is not by accident that UK special forces was lead by a "Sir Peter Edgar de la Cour de la Billière" for example during our "great" part in the Gulf war :D

The article in the Times harks back to an age when brutality and a disregard for the rule of law made England rich.

Britain has not been a world superpower for many years and idiotic journalistic ******** like this simply taps into a vein of wishful thinking by a sad group of backward looking "ye olde englande" false oak beams Essex pub, ageing Land Rover Discovery, fat blokes with bulldog tattoos, number one haircuts, beer guts and an brain the size of a pea.

The real crisis in the UK is the diminishing role of London as a European centre of finance.

Beyond the M25 remains a broken old industrial country that lost its way many, many years ago.

A shame really, as I rather like some parts of it.

Edited by non frog

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"The Norman aristocracy continues to this day to dominate the English upper classes. It is not by accident that UK special forces was lead by a "Sir Peter Edgar de la Cour de la Billière" for example during our "great" part in the Gulf war."

Peter de la Billiere is from Huguenot not Norman stock.

He's tucked away after the "C's" in this list.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Huguenots

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This is just reality biting.

We have been spending far too much on 'defence' (which in actuality is 'attack') since WWII.

What on earth are you on about? We spend almost nothing on defence. It's a tiny slice of the government budget.

It all goes on the NHS, education, and most of all, 'social justice'.

We've not been spending 'too much' on defence (or too little either, for that matter). It sure isn't the defence budget that has completely f***cked this country's public finances.

France spends more on defence than we do. Is France buggered because of it?

I've never yet seen the sort of person who mutters about how the sun has set on the empire and we spend too much on defence ever actually take a solid look at where we in reality spend our money. It isn't on defence. It's on the sacred cow of the interventionist socialist state. If we've spent beyond our means, I'd look to the legacy of Attlees government rather than Churchills.

Edited by EUBanana

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We should have retired from overseas wars after the Falklands. Last hurrah of a fading power. BTW if I'd been a Falklands' Islander, I'd have damn well wanted the taskforce down. Iraq, Pakghaniistan are well different.

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Project power?! Give me a break. We cant even get the French to help us out a little bit with the immigrant situation at Calais. The only power we project is when America is right beside us.

I doubt we could do another Falklands, thats for sure.

I mean, look

1982

falklandsDM1305_468x357.jpg

2005

British_Sailors_Seized_Iran.jpg

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I wouldn't have such a downer on the Normans.

They were the fifth component of the early English nation, the others being Angles, Saxons, Vikings and Jutes.

"In a famous passage, Geoffrey Malaterra characterised the Normans thus:

Specially marked by cunning, despising their own inheritance in the hope of winning a greater, eager after both gain and dominion, given to imitation of all kinds, holding a certain mean between lavishness and greediness, that is, perhaps uniting, as they certainly did, these two seemingly opposite qualities. Their chief men were specially lavish through their desire of good report. They were, moreover, a race skillful in flattery, given to the study of eloquence, so that the very boys were orators, a race altogether unbridled unless held firmly down by the yoke of justice. They were enduring of toil, hunger, and cold whenever fortune laid it on them, given to hunting and hawking, delighting in the pleasure of horses, and of all the weapons and garb of war."[1]

Their quick adaptability expressed itself in the shrewd Norman willingness to take on local men of talent, to marry the high-born local women; confidently illiterate Norman masters used the literate clerks of the church for their own purposes.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Normans

Ok, they were murderous, rapacious bastards but no more than the Angles, Saxons, Vikings and Jutes had been.

Although warlike the Normans were no strangers to their own spirituality. They were solid builders, good scholars, decent artists and even it appears good musicians.

Not so bad all in all, methinks.

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I wouldn't have such a downer on the Normans.

They were the fifth component of the early English nation, the others being Angles, Saxons, Vikings and Jutes.

"In a famous passage, Geoffrey Malaterra characterised the Normans thus:

Specially marked by cunning, despising their own inheritance in the hope of winning a greater, eager after both gain and dominion, given to imitation of all kinds, holding a certain mean between lavishness and greediness, that is, perhaps uniting, as they certainly did, these two seemingly opposite qualities. Their chief men were specially lavish through their desire of good report. They were, moreover, a race skillful in flattery, given to the study of eloquence, so that the very boys were orators, a race altogether unbridled unless held firmly down by the yoke of justice. They were enduring of toil, hunger, and cold whenever fortune laid it on them, given to hunting and hawking, delighting in the pleasure of horses, and of all the weapons and garb of war."[1]

Their quick adaptability expressed itself in the shrewd Norman willingness to take on local men of talent, to marry the high-born local women; confidently illiterate Norman masters used the literate clerks of the church for their own purposes.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Normans

Ok, they were murderous, rapacious bastards but no more than the Angles, Saxons, Vikings and Jutes had been.

Although warlike the Normans were no strangers to their own spirituality. They were solid builders, good scholars, decent artists and even it appears good musicians.

Not so bad all in all, methinks.

Hiya, from up here I'd include the Picts, the Welsh and the Celts......Not 'English' but still(?) part of the UK!

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Britain has never been "great" as in superb or wonderful. Great Britain is from the Norman French Greater Brittany after Duke Billy conquered the unruly Germans that lived a bit north of the thin strip of sea bordering Normandy in 1066.

As a result England became "under the Norman yoke". The most insulting part of which was the installation of Richard Coeur de Leon as king - a man that spoke no English.

The Norman aristocracy continues to this day to dominate the English upper classes. It is not by accident that UK special forces was lead by a "Sir Peter Edgar de la Cour de la Billière" for example during our "great" part in the Gulf war :D

The article in the Times harks back to an age when brutality and a disregard for the rule of law made England rich.

Britain has not been a world superpower for many years and idiotic journalistic ******** like this simply taps into a vein of wishful thinking by a sad group of backward looking "ye olde englande" false oak beams Essex pub, ageing Land Rover Discovery, fat blokes with bulldog tattoos, number one haircuts, beer guts and an brain the size of a pea.

The real crisis in the UK is the diminishing role of London as a European centre of finance.

Beyond the M25 remains a broken old industrial country that lost its way many, many years ago.

A shame really, as I rather like some parts of it.

I really like your post. It avoids cliched assessments of the UK yet does identify a distinct dishonesty in the way that Britain constantly presents itself as being at the cutting edge of "service industry" excellence and claims superiority in almost every field, including education, sophistication, liberal tolerance, diversity of thinking etc, etc. The real picture is markedly different and to extend your theme about the heart of the UK being very different from the slick image it attempts to present to the rest of the world I offer a small example:

Right now I happen to be sitting in a rather awful hotel in Devizes, Wiltshire, having been delayed by bad weather on a biking holiday. My hotel room is expensive, and costs far more than any equivalent room in the rest of Europe. It is damp, dingy and depressing. When arriving I asked whether it had a wi-fi connection so I could answer my e-mails on the go. I was assured it did. Three hours later, the missing pass code was eventually found on a dog-eared piece of paper the chef happened to find (the hotel owner was out playing a pool match, and that tells you everything you need to know). The connection is dismal, and on a par with dial up speeds three years ago.

In some ways you could find this kind of appalling incompetence rather charming. But not only is it getting beyond a joke. It also reminds you of the chasm between what the UK claims to be and what it actually is. Beyond the sophistication of London, maybe Brighton, perhaps Leeds or Manchester, the vast majority of the UK is a backwater, devoid of any of the claimed excellence which it relentlessly promotes in its PR. That wouldn't matter except for the fact that it is fundamentally dishonest.

We have to face this fact: Britain has for the last ten years projected an image of itself which is completely at odds with reality. And this is not restricted to hi tech considerations. It is in EVERY area of life that it fails with embarrassing regularity. Just take another example: Vegetable and Fruit markets. You can go to almost any town in the rest of Europe and they will have either permanent or twice weekly fruit and veg markets. They are alive with colour, choice, character and pleasure. The UK equivalent is a few tired old stalls, with tired old produce and sour faced market traders, devoid of enthusiasm and a million miles from the chirpy portrayals in films from the 1950's. We have a nation of builders and plumbers who, with a few noble exceptions, have made it a life's ambition to rip off everyone in sight, for the least effort and the most profit. We have solicitors who charge you £100 merely to walk through their door, let alone provide you with any meaningful or useful advice or service.

Why is all this happening? One reason could be the breathtaking complacency of an entire nation that has simply got too used to making a quick buck, untaxed, out of speculation into property. It seems to me that the last decade of easy profits (at someone else's expense) had duped a whole country into believing it can deliver shoddy service, poor attention, excessively expensive work, and a host of other mediocre under-achievement masquerading as excellence, and get away with it.

So, coming back to my miserable hotel room in Devizes. I am told that I should have perhaps booked into the "up market" hotel opposite. I popped over for a quick drink to suss it out. It is no better, but just has a slightly fancier name. All the same complacencies are there.

The UK has priced the world out of its own market. It has relied for too long on reputation building PR which simply doesn't deliver. We actually give extremely poor value and lamentable service compared to the rest of the world, yet we behave as though we are somehow at the fore-front. This is palpable nonsense. We really need to wake up and just have a quick glance at everyone else who makes a far better job of what we claim as our "expertise".

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I really like your post. It avoids cliched assessments of the UK yet does identify a distinct dishonesty in the way that Britain constantly presents itself as being at the cutting edge of "service industry" excellence and claims superiority in almost every field, including education, sophistication, liberal tolerance, diversity of thinking etc, etc. The real picture is markedly different and to extend your theme about the heart of the UK being very different from the slick image it attempts to present to the rest of the world I offer a small example:

Right now I happen to be sitting in a rather awful hotel in Devizes, Wiltshire, having been delayed by bad weather on a biking holiday. My hotel room is expensive, and costs far more than any equivalent room in the rest of Europe. It is damp, dingy and depressing. When arriving I asked whether it had a wi-fi connection so I could answer my e-mails on the go. I was assured it did. Three hours later, the missing pass code was eventually found on a dog-eared piece of paper the chef happened to find (the hotel owner was out playing a pool match, and that tells you everything you need to know). The connection is dismal, and on a par with dial up speeds three years ago.

In some ways you could find this kind of appalling incompetence rather charming. But not only is it getting beyond a joke. It also reminds you of the chasm between what the UK claims to be and what it actually is. Beyond the sophistication of London, maybe Brighton, perhaps Leeds or Manchester, the vast majority of the UK is a backwater, devoid of any of the claimed excellence which it relentlessly promotes in its PR. That wouldn't matter except for the fact that it is fundamentally dishonest.

We have to face this fact: Britain has for the last ten years projected an image of itself which is completely at odds with reality. And this is not restricted to hi tech considerations. It is in EVERY area of life that it fails with embarrassing regularity. Just take another example: Vegetable and Fruit markets. You can go to almost any town in the rest of Europe and they will have either permanent or twice weekly fruit and veg markets. They are alive with colour, choice, character and pleasure. The UK equivalent is a few tired old stalls, with tired old produce and sour faced market traders, devoid of enthusiasm and a million miles from the chirpy portrayals in films from the 1950's. We have a nation of builders and plumbers who, with a few noble exceptions, have made it a life's ambition to rip off everyone in sight, for the least effort and the most profit. We have solicitors who charge you £100 merely to walk through their door, let alone provide you with any meaningful or useful advice or service.

Why is all this happening? One reason could be the breathtaking complacency of an entire nation that has simply got too used to making a quick buck, untaxed, out of speculation into property. It seems to me that the last decade of easy profits (at someone else's expense) had duped a whole country into believing it can deliver shoddy service, poor attention, excessively expensive work, and a host of other mediocre under-achievement masquerading as excellence, and get away with it.

So, coming back to my miserable hotel room in Devizes. I am told that I should have perhaps booked into the "up market" hotel opposite. I popped over for a quick drink to suss it out. It is no better, but just has a slightly fancier name. All the same complacencies are there.

The UK has priced the world out of its own market. It has relied for too long on reputation building PR which simply doesn't deliver. We actually give extremely poor value and lamentable service compared to the rest of the world, yet we behave as though we are somehow at the fore-front. This is palpable nonsense. We really need to wake up and just have a quick glance at everyone else who makes a far better job of what we claim as our "expertise".

Eloquent, poetic and accurate. Well put.

But, AT WORK, we have a culture where dissent simply isnt allowed, not within your workplace, emporors new clothes etc.

I did actually stay at a hotel, top cuisine, where everyhting was fantastic recently. But he culture was so un-English. No hype etc. we CAN do it in the UK.

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Guest The Relaxation Suite
We have a nation of builders and plumbers who, with a few noble exceptions, have made it a life's ambition to rip off everyone in sight. Why is all this happening?

These two points are the answer - property. Builders/carpenters/plumbers driving £60,000 Range Rovers,etc. Nothing wrong with that per se, but charging £50 to hang a door, etc., was just part of the housing boom. Why is all this happening? Answer: Excessively high land prices, which are to blame for nearly every single one of our social problems.

Anyone who has spent time recently in many Asian countries will realise that British customer service must be the worst in the world. Not only that, but physically, British cities lag behind cities like Singapore or KL, especially the former which totally disgraces any British city in terms of cleanliness or efficiency or customer service.

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What on earth are you on about? We spend almost nothing on defence. It's a tiny slice of the government budget.

From the article in the first post, which I take it you didn't read.

"The UK still maintains one of the largest defence budgets in the world"

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"Hiya, from up here I'd include the Picts, the Welsh and the Celts......Not 'English' but still(?) part of the UK!"

I am looking forward to someone doing the genetic number crunching to see the size of the footprint left by the Normans in Scotland, Wales and Ireland.

I suspect it will be far greater in England and traditionally it is my understanding the Normans are seen as the last component of the early English nation rather than a component of the nations of Scotland, Wales and Ireland.

That is why on the Norman point I restricted my post to England.

Not from any lack of respect for Scotland, Wales and Ireland, nations and peoples that any reasonably educated person has no option but to hold in high regard.

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What on earth are you on about? We spend almost nothing on defence. It's a tiny slice of the government budget.

It all goes on the NHS, education, and most of all, 'social justice'.

We've not been spending 'too much' on defence (or too little either, for that matter). It sure isn't the defence budget that has completely f***cked this country's public finances.

France spends more on defence than we do. Is France buggered because of it?

I've never yet seen the sort of person who mutters about how the sun has set on the empire and we spend too much on defence ever actually take a solid look at where we in reality spend our money. It isn't on defence. It's on the sacred cow of the interventionist socialist state. If we've spent beyond our means, I'd look to the legacy of Attlees government rather than Churchills.

I broadly agree, but it's possible that even if the rest was sorted out, Britains tendency to "punch above its weight" has been a long-term mistake.

Eg. if we spend 1% of GDP on defence while our European peers spend 0.5%, investing the balance in something that offers an actual return, then in the long run that's going to show up in wealth-producing capacity (and as Cicero said, "endless money is the sinews of war").

Arguably we get a short-term pay-back in arms sales, but I can't help feeling it's sounder long-term business to sell stuff that's actually wanted for something other than suppressing or killing people. Or then again maybe not :ph34r:

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These two points are the answer - property. Builders/carpenters/plumbers driving £60,000 Range Rovers,etc. Nothing wrong with that per se, but charging £50 to hang a door, etc., was just part of the housing boom. Why is all this happening? Answer: Excessively high land prices, which are to blame for nearly every single one of our social problems.

Anyone who has spent time recently in many Asian countries will realise that British customer service must be the worst in the world. Not only that, but physically, British cities lag behind cities like Singapore or KL, especially the former which totally disgraces any British city in terms of cleanliness or efficiency or customer service.

I studiously avoid the example of Singapore, though I concede that it is infinitely more efficient than the UK. Despite my damning indictment of my own country, which I stand by, I still wouldn't cite the fascist state of Singapore as a jewel encrusted example to go by. Too many liberties have been lost there for it to be a worthy comparison. I'm sure you can think of other examples which still manage to be reasonably tolerant of dissent. We don't have to go from one extreme to another.

Edited by VacantPossession

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did you really have to insult peas in this way!?

Britain has not been a world superpower for many years and idiotic journalistic ******** like this simply taps into a vein of wishful thinking by a sad group of backward looking "ye olde englande" false oak beams Essex pub, ageing Land Rover Discovery, fat blokes with bulldog tattoos, number one haircuts, beer guts and an brain the size of a pea.

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From the article in the first post, which I take it you didn't read.

"The UK still maintains one of the largest defence budgets in the world"

MOD budget 2007/8 £35.6 billion, it may be one of the largest in the world but it's still fairly modest in terms of the big departmental spending picture.

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"Hiya, from up here I'd include the Picts, the Welsh and the Celts......Not 'English' but still(?) part of the UK!"

I am looking forward to someone doing the genetic number crunching to see the size of the footprint left by the Normans in Scotland, Wales and Ireland.

I suspect it will be far greater in England and traditionally it is my understanding the Normans are seen as the last component of the early English nation rather than a component of the nations of Scotland, Wales and Ireland.

That is why on the Norman point I restricted my post to England.

Not from any lack of respect for Scotland, Wales and Ireland, nations and peoples that any reasonably educated person has no option but to hold in high regard.

Thanks for the explanation.

In partial answer to your question re the Norman 'footprint' on the Celtic areas, I can (only from the Scottish perspective) give you a couple of responses:

1) Religion: post 1066 saw the decline of the traditional Celtic Catholic church in Scotland. This may not seem a massive change to have one Catholic church replaced by another, but it was actually a massive shift in power base. The 'old' Celtic Church was more of a community thing, with links to older traditions whereas the 'new' Catholic Church was the full blown cathedral type. More 'big government' than before. This would have huge political implications for Scotland in the next 1-200years.

2) Linked to 1 ) above saw the aristocracy adopt Norman English methods of rule.

Nigel Tranter's last non-fiction book provided a good precis of the process.

Edited by Eglintine McShoogle

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I broadly agree, but it's possible that even if the rest was sorted out, Britains tendency to "punch above its weight" has been a long-term mistake.

I agree with this. I would argue that Britain ceased to be the dominant world power actually as far back as 1900 when both Germany and the US overtook it in economic terms. The two world wars simply finished it off, which may, or may not, depending on your :ph34r: nature have been the whole idea from a German perspective. Certainly the US took every opportunity to reduce Britain's power. FDR fought a hard-bargain with WSC, and was a major critic of the empire.

And Britain hasn't even been "a" world power since WWII, let alone "the" world power, yet it has hung on to this reputation, quite understandably, for decades, unable to face the truth, which is that it has no more right to preach global ethics or shape world affairs than Canada, France, or Denmark. But that time is rapidly approaching. How will the British redefine themselves?

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From the article in the first post, which I take it you didn't read.

"The UK still maintains one of the largest defence budgets in the world"

No, I did read, but I know about lies, damned lies, and statistics, and I know a little more than the article on the subject.

As a percentage of GDP, while it is on the higher side to be sure, it is really pretty much comparable with other non-landlocked European countries. Less than France, about as close as it gets to a twin nation.

As a component of government spending it is an absolutely trifling sum. The entire defence budget comes to about 6.5% of total expenditure, a miniscule sliver. This is not and cannot be responsible for bankrupting the country, not when you set it aside travesties like the £100 billion plus pension liability or the interest we pay on the massive debt that that complete donkey Gordon has racked up in the past decade.

Did you know that the interest payments we make on the national debt are actually entirely comparable to the defence budget? Well done Gord.

So, really, when you get down to brass tacks, the bottom line is that the argument put forward in the article has been considered, and found to be total ********.

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